February 29, 2012
Director of Special Reviews
9115 Westside Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30009
Dear Mr. Wilson,
I am writing in reference to the Sumter County Board of Education in Americus, GA. I am a local citizen and the recently retired principal of Sumter County Primary School.
On Monday, Feb. 26, 2012, our local board held a called meeting for the purpose of discussing their response to your agency’s letter of Feb. 7, 2012. My complaint/concern is this: as soon as the meeting was opened, the chair called for a motion to go into executive session to “discuss pending litigation, etc.” Three of the board members pointed out the fact that your agency’s inquiry did not constitute pending litigation. However, a motion was made, seconded and carried (6-3), and the board went into executive session. When the board reopened the meeting, the chair called for a motion to allow the new attorney, Mr. Maurice King, to respond to your agency’s letter. No motion was offered and the chair actually made the motion. The motion was seconded and a 6-3 vote in favor of the motion was recorded.
It appears to me that provisions of the Sunshine Law were violated in this Feb. 26 meeting.
I also question whether additional provisions of the Sunshine Law were violated earlier this year. Two incidents in January raise suspicions:
1. At the regular meeting in January, out of the blue, one member made a motion to change attorneys from Harbin, Hartley and Hawkins to the aforementioned Mr. King. The motion was very quickly seconded. Absolutely no discussion to this effect had occurred at the work session earlier in the same week. It appeared that three of the board members were blindsided by this action. The three made attempts to question such a decision before a vote, but the motion passed 6-3. It seems a logical conclusion that the “6” had discussed the matter outside the confines of a legal meeting.
2. At another meeting in January, this one a called meeting to discuss the district’s redistricting plan, another “out of the blue” motion was made. A board member motioned that the district rescind its original plan (approved unanimously a few months prior). Again, the second came very quickly. Again, no discussion had been held in previous legal meetings, and again, three board members were blindsided. A 6-3 vote sealed the deal. In my estimation, it again appears as though the “6” had discussed the matter outside the confines of a legal meeting.
I respectfully request that your agency investigate these matters along with the issues concerning governance mentioned in your Feb. 7 letter of inquiry.
I am very concerned that the response you receive in regard to the Feb. 7 letter will be less than accurate. The attorney who is charged with preparing the response was not our school board attorney at the time of the events in question. I am also concerned that the response will not be made public. Please advise as to whether the response should be made public.
While I understand the possible ramifications of an investigation by your agency, I am concerned that your intervention may be the only hope for our school district to able to move forward and get back to the business of doing what is right for the children of Sumter County.
Please feel free to contact me by phone or by email should you require additional information. I look forward to your response.
Valerie R. Duff
February 29, 2012
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